MAY- Mental Health Month
May is mental health month! Perfect timing for us New Yorkers, as the weather gets nicer and we can finally spend more time outdoors basking in the sun, let’s work not just on that glowing tan but also on glowing on inside!
The biggest and greatest accomplishments are those are those that get accomplished little by little. Here’s some tips to focus on to help improve your mental health. The key is to move towards what you naturally gravitate towards and as much as you can comfortably swallow. It’s essential to start off with where you are currently at. You want to challenge yourself but to a degree that is exciting rather than overwhelming. The greatest changes in life happen only when we move outside our comfort zone. Finding even just one of the below areas to focus on will bring changes throughout your life!
- • Exercise– It’s more than just building muscle or losing weight. Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, which in turn increases oxygen and allows for nutrients to be absorbed. It also helps to create new synapses which are crucial for memory and learning. The more you exercise, the smarter you become.
The popular saying “walk it off” exists for a reason; when we are moving, our brains literally help us to work through our problems. This is not something we need to force, but something that happens naturally as we move our bodies through space. Just as when, after a great night’s sleep, you find your brain has almost magically worked through a problem without any conscious intervention on your part, moving our bodies does the same thing!
One small practical way you can help yourself in this area: monitor your step count, and try to push it a couple hundred steps or so every week; before you know it, your body will be taking those extra steps automatically without you realizing it
Get Creative- The next time you pick up a paint brush, whip up a meal, or strum out a song, you are increasing neuroplasticity in the brain, which is the ability to make life changes based on experiences. Creativity provides feelings of accomplishment. When we are creative, we release more dopamine, which is a natural anti-depressant. Creativity does not mean you need to demonstrate amazing paintings or breath-taking performances.
One small practical way you can help yourself in this area: If you feel a creative yearning inside of yourself that’s not yet actualized, try out one of these activities:
Creative writing or journaling
Playing an instrument
Baking or cooking
Gardening or decorating
- Reconnect with Old Friends/Family or Make New Ones- Another way to feel good is through connection with people and animals. A hug, a touch on the shoulder, a stroke of a dog will increase your oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a natural hormone found in our bodies. Oxytocin helps to regulate our emotions, making us more trustworthy, empathetic, and feeling more positive overall.
One small practical way you can help yourself in this area: Call a friend or loved one you think fondly of and haven’t talked to in awhile. The odds are they will be THRILLED to hear from you! Also, try out a new activity (yoga class, acting class, volunteering) that requires a commitment and try to stick to it!
- Sleep Hygiene- We’ve all heard it before: ideally, we should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. This one is intuitively obvious to us all; we can immediately feel a good night of sleep. Yet, issues of sleep are a pretty common symptom of too much stress and anxiety, and when we have sleep issues, we may start to overthink the question of how to get better sleep. The thing is, sleep is not something that you can consciously make happen for you but, if you live your life in the right way, it comes naturally. Did you know that your liver, lungs, and intestines are doing the majority of their work during the hours of 1am to 7am? Having an established, daily routine is a great way to get that natural rhythm of sleep going in your life.
One small practical way you can help yourself in this area: Establish a set time (at least two hours before your usual bedtime) to put your phone away and limit exposure to blue light. Let go of the day’s stress and do anything that’s relaxing and makes you feel good. Scented candles, relaxing music, and stretching or laying down on an acupressure mat are some ideas.
- Nutrition- When we are experiencing too much stress, we are drawn to food and drinks that will give us quick highs in the short-term. It makes sense: we’re not thinking about nourishment in the long-term, and just want to put out the fires of those anxious thoughts for a moment. Studies at SEM demonstrated that people who report feeling high levels of stress almost always report having high levels of sugar intake as well. Sugar causes inflammation. Excess sugar will cause inflammation throughout the body, leading to a lack of clarity. Overall, proper nutrition is vital. Without adequate nutrients, our brain is left weak, leading to cognitive and emotional brain fog.
- One small practical way you can help yourself in this area: Instead of setting an impossible bar of only eating highly nutritious and delicious food for every meal (that of course you prepared yourself with the finest ingredients), try to bring awareness to how you feel before you eat, to eat mindfully while you are eating, and to notice how you feel afterwards. In time, bringing awareness to your meals in this way will help you gravitate towards choices that make you feel better.
- Put Your Phone Down- As many of us know, social media addiction, especially for young people, has become a mental health crisis. There are a number of reasons why that is so. One way to look at it is that it is a common symptom that many mental health problems share: racing thoughts. If you have spent too much time scrolling and not being productive on your phone in one sitting, you know that the EPITOME of the experience is characterized by racing thoughts! In that moment you may feel like those types of thoughts are never going to go away and that you are trapped.
One small practical way you can help yourself in this area: Just as our step count may give us a good general sense of how physically stuck we are, our Screen Time (outside of work) is a good indication of how distracted we are. Without judging yourself, try to monitor how much you use your phone via Screen Time and set attainable goals to lower that number in small ways over time.
Experience Reiki/Meditation/Hypnosis- Find the service that’s right for you! Check out our list of services to see what piques your interest. Uncertain? We offer free consultations and are always happy to help if you have any questions, call/text us at 917-658-1660